A new kind of office environment has come to Warwick with yesterday’s grand opening of WorkDigz, a 5,000- square-foot, membership-based, flexible office space, located at 16 International Way.
WorkDigz owner Paul Morse, who is also president of Warwick’s BrokerNet, believes people who chose to work in this unique space will be able to “connect, collaborate, communicate, and hopefully thrive in their business endeavors.”
Individuals looking for an office can purchase a membership for the facility (daily, monthly or annually) and have access to the space anytime during building hours, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Members will have access to individual offices (at a first-come, first-serve basis or a private office can be rented long-term), communal workspaces, open social areas with couches and lounge chairs, TVs, a kitchen, game room and even a basketball hoop set up outside. There are also conference rooms and project tables with white boards. The idea is to provide members with whatever work environment they prefer.
“That social environment, that’s how some people want to work,” explained Morse. “If people want to take a break and have a little fun, they can.”
Morse said many individuals are losing their jobs in the corporate world and finding a way to re-invent themselves. In today’s world, that often means creating their own business or working as a freelancer. WorkDigz can provide a space to foster creativity, work ethic and collaborative growth with other members.
“The economy is struggling; people are working differently now,” said Morse.
Morse saw advertisements for similar workspaces while traveling for his work with insurance firms. When one of his buildings lost its tenant, he had an idea. Instead of putting another “For Lease” sign in a window, he did some refurbishing and renovating to turn the office building into a vibrant, creative and collaborative environment for individuals looking for a unique work environment.
“You can have privacy if you need it, but you can have connection if you want it,” explained Morse.
For those looking for privacy, there are the individual office spaces and quiet rooms designed for phone calls. For those looking for a little more activity, there are social spaces with couches and chairs, and open group workspaces with white boards for brainstorming. There is also a “locker room” with file cabinets for members looking for private storage on site.
Morse is also supporting another Rhode Island-based company, Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee. The kitchen is fully stocked with the fair trade coffee for use.
The cost of a membership can range between $199 and $299, but Morse said it is important to remember all of the benefits you get.
“There’s a lot of things that you get,” said Morse, pointing out the access to copy machines, food, games and the space. “It’s also important to remember what you don’t get: a long-term lease, a cable bill, an electrical bill, a property tax bill, an Internet use bill.”
Representative Frank Ferri, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur and Mayor Scott Avedisian were all at WorkDigz for the grand opening and only had good things to say about the concept.
“I see it as a big benefit to start-ups,” said Ferri, pointing out that new businesses don’t have to worry about making a large investment in buying or leasing a space and filling it with equipment. “It’s a great opportunity to get a business off the ground.”
Avedisian pointed out the location is beneficial to individuals who need an office space but travel a lot for work as well; WorkDigz is located minutes from T.F. Green Airport and the train station. He said members who need to travel can often stop by the office quickly, make use of the Internet or printing options, and jump on the train or a plane for a business trip.
Avedisian also agrees that it caters to the new way many people work.
“You may only need the space four hours a week,” he said, adding that it helps avoid the cost of owning a larger space when it isn’t needed. He added that with a real phone system and mailing address, it can also give a sense of professionalism to start-ups.
“It provides the opportunity to work in an office in a different way,” said the mayor.
Ladouceur said he enjoyed how it provided the flexibility but still felt like a work place.
“You feel like you’re at a real office,” said the councilman. “You can’t feel like you’re at a real office working out of Starbucks.”
In terms of collaboration, Morse used the example of a freelance writer and a graphic designer who are each a member of WorkDigz. If the writer is working on the content for a brochure for a client, they can recruit the graphic designer to create a logo or image content for the piece.
Morse knows many people will save money by trying to work out of their homes or in coffee shops; he doesn’t believe those are always viable options.
“It’s hard to be productive when working in your home,” said Morse.
He also always sees individuals trying to work on important projects in busy coffee shops, which also can’t make concentrating easy.
“If you look at our economy, it hasn’t been great,” said Morse. “There’s so many people forced to re-invent themselves.”
He said many professionals in the communications field such as public relations, web design and advertising have been striking out on their own.
“There’s a huge amount of folks starting their own businesses; this caters to this group,” he said.
Not only does Morse see this space as an opportunity for those looking to escape their at-home offices or freelancers searching for a way to access necessary office equipment, but he also sees opportunity for larger companies looking for a place to send employees who work out of the corporate facility. Morse explained that corporations are starting to send employees out to work in the field with an iPad, with most having an “office” in their homes. Instead, the corporation could purchase limited or unlimited memberships for their employees at WorkDigz.
According to Morse, these collaborative workspaces have been a growing trend in larger cities such as New York City, Chicago and Boston, but they have slowly been working their way outward. He believes they are a great resource for the current state of employment in Rhode Island.
“My vision is a lot of happy people doing a lot of good work,” said Morse, hoping to create a good community with a lot of communication. He believes the members will be able to network with each other a lot, especially during Friday afternoon social parties and business seminars Morse plans to offer.
The building also has an additional 5,000 square feet Morse did not renovate for WorkDigz; he says if the initial space proves successful, he will consider expansion. He believes the current space could accommodate 100 members.
“My hope is you have this work, play community where people are happy, less alienated,” said Morse. “Hopefully, collectively, people can go further.”